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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Translating Chinese -issues of dilects, forms

Translating Asian Languages


Chinese is the second most widely spoken language in the world after English. Currently all eyes are on China because of each huge population. For businesses this is a brand new market because for years trade with China was limited. In terms of the Internet, Chinese speaking users are expected to surpass English speaking users as these trade barriers continue to crumble.

As a free lance translator you should be aware of the two main dialects of Chinese; Cantonese and Mandarin, which refer only to the spoken language. Although there are more than 200 dialects spoken in China. In terms of a written translations, the two main languages are simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.

This fact is important in terms of the audience location for your translation. During the nineteen fifties China reformed the Chinese script by simplifying many characters thus the term “Simplified Chinese. “ however this reform was not well received outside of mainland China. As a result translations targeted for Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities must be written in traditional Chinese.

The most important point to keep in mind when translating a document from English to Chinese is that the written and spoken forms of Chinese not the same. Mandarin is not the same as simplified Chinese nor is Cantonese the same as traditional Chinese.

For instance, in mainland China and Taiwan people speak Mandarin Chinese however the Taiwanese use the traditional script in writing. On the other hand the people of Hong Kong also use traditional Chinese script, but speak Cantonese Chinese.

If you’re translated document is targeted for mainland China it must be written in simplified Chinese script, for the traditional Chinese script will not be understood, especially in regard to the older generation. Because of the very large difference in the way the scripts are written for traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese knowledge of the designated target audience is imperative. It is not necessary to do two separate translations, but a script conversion will be required if the document is for two separate audiences.

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